MP Pete Sessions compares the cannabis industry to slavery

Republican US Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) is facing a general backlash from officials and the NORML leadership after he testified at a House Oversight Committee hearing on March 15

The Civil Rights and Liberties Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee convened for the hearing to discuss developments in state cannabis laws and bipartisan federal cannabis reform.

In particular, the issues discussed concerned the pardoning of persons accused of possession and the difference between a pardon and deletion for cannabis-related crimes. The topic of the day was supposed to be civil rights, but Rep. Sessions managed to compare the cannabis industry to slavery.

“The product is marketed. The product is sold. The product was endorsed by people looking to make money from it,” said Rep. Sessions at the meeting. “Slavery also made money and was a horrible circumstance that this country and the world went through for many, many years.”

1819 News reports that the committee meeting — full of city, state, and federal officials — did not take Rep. Sessions’ comments well.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke up after hearing Rep. Sessions’ “offensive” comments earlier at the hearing. Woodfin spoke to the House Oversight Committee’s Civil Rights and Liberties Subcommittee to join the conversation on pardons and wipings. But he couldn’t let Rep. Sessions’ comments slide.

“Words matter,” Woodfin said confidently after Rep. Sessions’ remarks. “While on record, I just want to say bluntly to you, your committee members, that putting cannabis and slavery in the same category is patently offensive and blatant.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) echoed Mayor Woodfin’s comments about the “peculiar analogy.”

“I think we can all deny that, and we apologize that the lectern was used for that purpose at any point today,” Raskin said.

The cannabis industry is reacting

Today, a sitting congressman equated the regulated cannabis industry with slavery. Shameful. #Texas, when do you send off Pete Sessions?

— Morgan That’s All NORML Fox (@MorganFoxCLE2DC) November 15, 2022

The cannabis industry also took note of the careless remarks. “Today an incumbent member of Congress equated the regulated cannabis industry with slavery,” NORML Political Director Morgan Fox tweeted. “Shameful. Texas, when are you going to send Pete Sessions home?”

Politico called Rep. Sessions “Washington’s most powerful anti-pot official” in 2018. Its storied history in the fight against cannabis reform goes way back. Also, it’s not the first time Rep. Pete Sessions has made questionable comments about cannabis, calling people in the industry “dealers of addiction.”

“Marijuana is an addictive product, and that’s what the dealers of the addiction are doing,” Rep. Sessions said in 2018. “They’re going to get where our people, our young people, get addicted to marijuana and move on.” The MP Pete Session also linked road deaths to cannabis reform, blaming high-THC products.

Rep. Sessions’ comments linking the cannabis industry to slavery are particularly tongue-in-cheek because there’s another thing people have compared to “modern day slavery”: the US prison system. The ACLU regularly reports that blacks are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than whites, despite roughly equal rates of use. The ACLU also reports that the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery and forced labor, contains a loophole for prisoners who can and still are forced to work.

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